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10 Tips for Getting Better Holiday Photos

The holidays make for fantastic photo opportunities. Even the least photographically-inclined reach for a camera to do the annual group portrait. Use these tips to make great photos of Christmas, Hanukkah, or the mid-winter holiday of your preference. This year, you'll come away from the holidays with the absolute best photographs you have ever created. # 1 Compose Creatively and Move in Close

Whether you are photographing the symbolic subjects of the holidays or your friends and family, getting creative with your composition certainly cannot hurt. This means paying special attention to how you organize the various elements in each photo.

There are two main concepts to keep in mind when composing the scene artistically:

Off-center your main subject. Instead of placing your main subject in the center of the scene - with a lot of dead space around it - move your camera until this subject is off to the side. This works especially well if you can balance your main subject with something in the background, on the other side of the picture. For example, if you are photographing a beautiful candle, try placing it on the right with the Christmas tree (or an equivalent supporting element) blurred softly in the background on the left. This will result in a photo that both records the candle in all its beauty and does so in an artistic, creative way. Move in close. Especially when you center your subject but even when you off-center it, moving in close is the one thing that will make the biggest difference in the success of your picture-taking. The simple fact is the audiences are always more impressed when the subject is huge and impossible to miss. Therefore, you want your subject to fill the frame. Say you are photographing the candle mentioned above, but don't have a Christmas tree (or its equivalent supporting element) in the background. In this case, you might want to instead move in as close as you can. Causing the entire frame to be filled with your subject will inevitably result in a photo that has true impact on your viewer.

# 2 For Better Family and Group Portraits The most important thing to keep in mind when photographing groups and families is this: you absolutely must take a lot of photos.

There is often a great deal of pressure when photographing groups. People generally complain about having their picture taken and want the experience to be over quickly. They have been trained by bad portrait photographers in the past to hate both the process and the results.

So it is your job to overcome these hurdles. You need to work quickly in order to get the job done within their limits of patience. And you need to keep the experience as fun and friendly as possible, so they remember it in a positive light.

Above both of these tasks, though, you need to get the absolute best photos you can. And more than anything else this means taking a large number of photos. Since there is always someone blinking or looking off to the side or facing another member of the group, having a large number of photos will give you the best chances of catching everyone looking their best.

# 3 Shoot First, Ask Questions Later Especially if your subject is a child opening a gift - or playing with a gift for the first time - you know that, within a split second, the scene can change. There is often just a few brief moments when that "magic spark" appears.

That's why it is so important to be fully prepared to capture that moment when it happens. Of course this means having your camera on hand and the batteries fully charged... After all, you can't capture the moment if you don't have your camera on you and ready to go.

However, even more than having your camera on hand, this equates to being assertive with your picture-taking. Be ready to press that shutter button at a moment's notice, anticipating when the magic spark will surface. If you have a digital camera that suffers from a bit of a delay when taking the picture, then you will have to become even more intuitive and skilled at anticipating the moment.

Either way, shoot quickly and shoot often. Don't be shy - getting a great photo of the right moment is rewarding and well worth the extra effort.

# 4 Don't Use Flash Indoors The flip side to Tip #5 is to turn off your flash indoors, whenever you can possibly get away with it.

The flash can be a real lifesaver, no doubt about it. This burst of artificial light can mean the difference between a decent photo and a totally blurry, unusable image.

However, the light from flash units - especially from the tiny on-camera flash units found on most every camera - tend to produce harsh, flat, and cold light. This is rarely a complimentary way to illuminate your subject.

If you are shooting indoors during the day, make your portraits with your subjects standing near a window or door instead of relying on the flash. Get between your subject and the window - in other words, don't include the window in your composition, as this will throw off your exposure meter.

If you are shooting indoors at night, try to flood the room where you are photographing with as much light as you can - turn on whatever lamps you have at hand. This will help reduce those harsh, flashed-out subjects, as well as other problems like red-eye.

# 5 Use Flash Outdoors

Most people think that using flash is synonymous with photographing indoors at night - at a Christmas party for example.

However, flash need not be relegated to indoor, night photography. Flash can be a big help when it comes to shooting outdoors during the day. Even in bright sunlight, forcing your flash to fire can often mean the difference between a so-so snapshot and an eye-grabbing masterpiece.

The reason is that this kind of bright day flash will fill in the shadows and even out harsh contrasts.

Try it out... next time you are photographing friends or children outdoors, turn your flash on and see if it works for you.

# 6 Look for Reflections

One the quickest and easiest ways to add an artistic touch to your holiday photos is to focus on capturing reflections rather than the object itself.

Simply keep an eye out for interesting splashes of color, reflected from Christmas lights and other holiday decorations.

This is one time when rainy days are your friends - puddles in the street can be a perfect source of abstract images - photos that suggest the essence of the holidays without being direct and explicit.

You can also look for interesting shadows and other graphic elements. Or you can include out of focus Christmas lights, to give your photo an evocative, unique background.

# 7 Blur, Swirl, and Zoom Those Christmas Lights

Tired of the same old Christmas tree photos? If you want to try something new, set your camera to a slower shutter speed - anywhere from 1/2 second to 2 or 4 full seconds. Then purposefully move the camera while taking the picture. The idea here is to intentionally blur the colorful Christmas lights... and in order to blur a stationary subject, you need a slow shutter speed and controlled camera movement.

If you use an SLR camera with a zoom lens, you will have a little more freedom and speed with your zoom. Thus, you will not need as slow of a shutter speed as those using compact zoom digicams. All the same, you can create this effect with either kind of camera.

For the zooming effect to look clean, you will want to mount your camera securely on a tripod to keep it from moving while you zoom in or out during the exposure.

If you want to get even more creative, you can simple move the camera around while the shutter is open. For this technique, you can leave your tripod at home. That's right... I said it... this is one of the few times I advise you to not use a tripod.

# 8 Give the Gift of a Photograph

Whether you are a last minute shopper or not, we have the perfect gift idea for you: a family photo.

Parents and grandparents in particular love photos of the family and children as a holiday present.

This is such a cherished present, we will be offering a few of the most helpful pointers for getting great portraits in the upcoming tips. In the meantime, pick out a nice frame, get some good inkjet paper if you shoot digital, and get ready to give a gift that, if done properly, can bring tears of joy to their eyes.

# 9 Plan Ahead: Charge Batteries and Clear Cards or Buy Film The last thing you want to have happen is to get all set up for the family portrait or holiday photo to realize you forgot to charge the battery!

In addition to making sure your batteries are charged (or you have replacements on hand), you will also want to make sure you have a place for your potential images to be recorded.

If you shoot digital, offload and archive your images so you can free up space on your flash memory card. If you use a conventional, film-based camera, be sure you have an extra roll or two of film on hand.

Here's a bonus tip for you generous gift-givers out there: before wrapping up digital camera and film camera gifts, charge up the batteries and insert the memory card or film. This will make it all the more fun for the recipient to enjoy your nice gift - right out of the box!

Either way, being prepared will make those once-in-a-lifetime moments that much easier to capture.

# 10 Don't Eat Yellow Snow; Don't Photograph Blue Snow (for those travelers)

If you go out photographing snowy outdoor scenes, most camera meters will be fooled into underexposing your picture. Instead of nice, bright white snow, a bluish cast will give your snow scene an extra cold feel (and an unnatural look).

To remedy this, use your camera's exposure compensation feature or a manual exposure mode to force an addition 1 to 2 stops of light to reach your film or CCD. If you have a point and shoot camera or a compact digicam, your camera may not feature manual exposure but it will likely have the exposure compensation option. Look for a little +1 or +2 symbol.

If you have a film or digital SLR camera, you will likely have these +1 and +2 exposure compensation options as well as a manual exposure mode.

Adapted from: http://www.betterphoto.com/exploring/topTen/holiday-photography-tips.asp

Shooting Tack-Sharp Images

Novices to experienced photographers may be surprised to know that there are many different factors that influence your overall image sharpness. Here is a brief summary of each area that can potentially affect your image clarity.

I. Shutter speed - Shutter speed is probably the first thing most of us think about when shooting tack-sharp images. Our first lessons in SLR photography are how camera shake and movement can ruin a picture if your shutter speed is too low. For more information on shutter speed and what your minimum shutter speed should be, check out our article Shutter Speed Guideline – The Reciprocal Rule.

II. ISO - The second thing that may come to your mind is your ISO setting. While ISO speeds up the process in which your film/sensor absorbs light, it also adds grain to your image. This grain destroys detail/sharpness in the image. The higher your ISO setting, the more detail is destroyed. New professional DSLR cameras such as the Nikon D700 and the Canon 5d Mark II (and higher models) can shoot at much higher ISO settings while retaining much of the image detail. However, with the proper lighting, it is usually best practice to shoot at the lowest ISO setting possible.

III. Lens quality - The quality of the "glass" (lens) contributes to image sharpness, contrast and saturation. For the most part, professional series Nikon and Canon lenses produce sharper images than cheaper lens models or third party lens manufacturers. However, this generalization does not apply to all lenses, and some tests for select lenses have claimed better overall sharpness from third party manufacturers than their Nikon or Canon counterparts. Does this mean you should buy third party glass? Usage and budget are important factors; but keep in mind that cheap glass, in general, will already put you at a disadvantage when trying to create tack-sharp images.

IV. Image area - In composing your shots, keep in mind that different areas of the image will be softer (less sharp) than others. The center of your frame will always be your sharpest point, while the image will only get softer as you continue to the edge of the frame. While shooting your subject off-center for composition purposes is often necessary, it isn't in your best interest to compose shots carelessly because you are relying on cropping the image down in post production. In general, areas away from the center will be less sharp relative to the center at wider apertures (F1.4, F2.8, etc), while areas away from the center will have similar sharpness as the center at smaller apertures (F8, F11, etc).

V. Aperture setting - Aperture is probably the last thing you would think of when it comes to obtaining tack-sharp images. However, it is one of the largest determining factors of shooting tack-sharp images. We all know that aperture controls your depth of field. However, did you know that shooting the exact same shot with the exact same focal point will yield different levels of sharpness on your focal point at different apertures? For example, if I focus on the nose of a face at F1.4 and with the exact same exposure value and composition, shoot the same face at F4.0, the nose will actually be sharper in the image shot at F4.0. This is simply because each lens has a "sweet spot."

Shooting at your lenses sweet spot will improve sharpness, contrast and saturation. Now you may be thinking, "well how do I find the sweet spot on my lens?" There are several rules of thumb, but the most prevalent is that your sweet spot is around 2 full stops above your lens' minimum (widest) aperture. Depending on the lens, this will be in the range of F4-F11 or so. Keep in mind though, raising your aperture too high (small) will result in aperture diffraction, another phenomenon that will reduce overall clarity. For more information on diffraction, read our article Avoiding Aperture Diffraction.

One last thing, before you go shooting all of your images at your "optimal aperture" setting. Keep in mind that composition always rules! If blurring the background to make the subject "pop" is part of your look and composition, then shoot the lowest aperture possible! A well exposed composition shot at F1.4 will still be plenty sharp for any purpose, it just may not be considered "perfectly tack-sharp." However, we should always think of composition first, and when appropriate keep your aperture within its sweet spot.

Last but not least, Digital Photography Review has an amazing widget that allows you to check out the sweet spot on pretty much any lens.

Jirsa, Pye. "Shooting Tack-Sharp Images." [SLR] Lounge. .

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Carnival Deals To Chat About!

Carnival Deals To Chat About!

Summer is almost here and the specials are already sizzling  at Coast Caribbean Images! Many of our Carnival themed images have been put on sale and now's the time to get it while it's HOT. Planning a Crop-Over campaign? Have a look at our fabulous concept driven collection and choose the images that best suit your fancy! 

On our homepage you'll notice a new tab called http://www.coastcaribbeanimages.com/photographs.cfm?PageAction=Search&Brand=7. Click here and you'll see all of the images that are on sale. You've got to move fast though, these deals won't be around for ever! Visit the "On Sale" section often to see what deals are available.


Unleash the potential of your communications and get noticed this Carnival Season!

Barbados Green Monkeys

These green monkeys are so cute and do they ever loooove mangoes. I have a huge mango tree in our backyard guarded from two-legged thieves by a large Akita dog.

However she is no match for tree swinging four-legged green monkey thieves. The whole family comes (daddy monkey, mummy monkey with baby clinging on underneath and some toddler monkeys) making their way across an open lot tightrope walking on the power cables and then leaping into the tree.

They come at breakfast and tea-time to feast on our fruit, choosing the nicest ones, taking one/two bites and then dropping the half-eaten rest into our garden sending our poor dog into a frenzy.

Actually the dog too is quite fond of mangoes so my husband and I can only get mangoes late in the season when both sets of animals have had their fill!

check out the pic Monkey and mango'


Davis Mitchell link belowhttp://www.coastcaribbeanimages.com/photographs.cfm?PageAction=Details&PhotoID=199


Sea Island Cotton


Caroline Sameul recently captured and submitted some lovely pictures of the local Barbados cotton found growing as a shrub in the St. Joseph area of Barbados. Of course this is not uncommon in the tropics but it is amazing that cotton is something we use every day, yet we hardly think about where it comes from. Cotton is a soft, staple  fiber that grows in a form known as a boll around the seeds of the cotton plant Gossypium, a  shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the India and Africa. The fiber most often is spun into yarn or thread and used to make a soft, breathable textile which is the most widely used natural-fiber cloth in clothing today. 

check out the cool reflective light coming through the cotton buds in this shot...


vibrant underwater photography by Lucy Agace

Underwater imaging is considered an especially challenging area of photography, since it requires very specialized equipment and techniques to be successful. Despite these challenges, it offers the possibility of many exciting and rare photographic opportunities. Lucy has captured unique moments of the golden tail eel and arrow crab side by side. In addition to the vibrant colours and contrasts of the different reef and sea urchin. This last submission has some breathtaking imagery of an orange sea horse close up, as well as pink shrimp in anemone and the wonderful face of a spotted eel that it appears it is staring right at the photographer. 

To see more of Lucy's lovely work simply follow this link, it is absolutely breathtaking http://www.coastcaribbeanimages.com/photographers.cfm?PageAction=Details&PhotographerID=48



New Stock Photography RSS Feed

New stock photography RSS feed!Coast Caribbean Images is committed to providing an excellent professional stock photography service to graphic artists, marketing executives, web designers, etc in Barbados, the Caribbean and around the world.

As part of this committment, we are currently surveying our  members to determine how we can improve our website.

One comment we heard repeated was that it is not easy to find new stock photography on the website.

We listened and responded!

Now you can use our RSS Feed to always receive the most current photographs! Just add our feed to your RSS reader and you'll receive daily updates of all new photos.. it's that simple!

The address is: http://coastcaribbeanimages.com/new-stock-photography.xml

"What on earth is RSS" you ask?
Well, we've provided some more information on our website, just click here...

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